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Aviation needs to avoid MH370 overreaction: AAPA

May 27, 2014

Published on May 27, 2014

Andrew Herdman urges unemotional response to avoid making aviation less safe

The aviation industry needs to adopt a measured, unemotional response to the disappearance of flight MH370, to avoid making the industry less safe than it is at present, a senior industry official has told Travel Daily.

In an interview in Bangkok, Andrew Herdman, director-general of the MH 370Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA), said that while the industry was in the process of recommending improvements to the safety of flights, it needs to be done in a considered and controlled way.

"As [Australia's] Prime Minister Abbott said, everyone was transfixed by MH370 and still is. But it's also highlighted how rare major accidents are. Ten years ago we were losing about one in a million flights, five years ago it improved to about one in two million, and now it's about one in three million.

"That [safety record] hasn't changed because of one accident and we need to be cautious about reading too much into an ever-diminishing number of catastrophes. There are some lessons, but we need to guard against making the mistake of doing something that solves one problem and unwittingly creates another."

When asked if there was a danger of an overreaction to MH370, Herdman said "always".

"Before you make changes, you need to think very hard about what are the consequences," he warned. "You're better off making that [decision] calmly, rather than in the emotional aftermath of the accident. Too many security policies are made in that dangerous period immediately after an incident when the reaction is driven by shock and the pressure to act. We need to be careful and regain our collective composure."

Citing examples of how such an overreaction could impact safety, Herdman highlighted the issue of aircraft transponders, which have come into focus after the MH370 system was switched off.

"The transponder could be switched off or could fail, and then you lose the aircraft. So the obvious thought is, 'why don't we have it so the transponders can't be switched off?' But if the system short circuits or catches fire and you can't disable it, [the fire] spreads. You'd have to think very carefully before you went back on that design principle."

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